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Managing the full view of the data centre

Managing the full view of the data centre

DataData CentresEnterprise SecurityFacilities & ServersInsightsOperations & SystemsThought LeadershipTop Stories

Martin Hodgson, Country Manager, UK & Ireland at Paessler AG, discusses how data centre leaders can ensure operations run more smoothly by using management tools which enable improved visibility across the business.

Businesses need to have a single view of how their data centre is performing, however, this can often be a challenge as several tools and solutions work separately to monitor the critical aspects of a data centre.

To successfully manage a data centre, the technology, the conditions within the facility and the people, all need to be carefully monitored. This requires a carefully designed approach – one where all potential threats to a data centre must be accounted for.

Getting the conditions right inside the data centre

Monitoring and regulating the environment of a data centre on a frequent basis is crucial. This includes the temperature levels to ensure the equipment can operate at its optimum level. Computers generate heat and this can pose a serious risk. Overheating can result in breakdowns and increase the wear on fragile IT components over time.

This could effectively reduce the lifespan of the machine and increase the overall operating costs of a large data centre. Air conditioning is a suitable remedy to this issue – it isn’t a cheap solution but it is a necessary one. The real challenge that facility managers face is to regulate the temperature throughout the building and make sure that aren’t any hot spots or that it gets too cool (otherwise this will incur high costs). If the environment gets too cold, this could be an indicator for defect or wrongly adjusted HVAC devices.

The good news is that it’s possible to easily monitor the temperature of IT equipment via SNMP or an API. Even if the air conditioning system is old and monitoring is only accessible via protocols such as Modbus TCP or OPC UA, businesses now have the opportunity to invest in a monitoring tool that is able to support various protocols. This means that it can still monitor the temperature of this outdated or aging air conditioning units. With a singular monitoring platform at hand, IT and facility managers will be able to instantly monitor and determine the health of the physical data centre environment without having to compare and contrast various reports from different monitoring systems.

Managing the security features

IT and facility managers need to also consider the security aspects of a data centre management. Data is a company’s most precious asset and needs to be protected from both online and physical threats. Physical threats such as those from intruders is a constant risk that needs to be managed. In-built safety features should be integrated into the building to monitor for these threats. This includes, access control systems, video surveillance and 24/7 onsite security guards.

Regular audits should be carried out to identify potential risks, hazards and entry points. CCTV can also be effective in detecting intruders as well as picking up smoke from a fire in the building. Implementing a system that monitors the physical security of the data centre is a must have. Having a system that incorporates 24/7 monitoring, surveillance data collection, the ability to display all information in clearly arranged dashboards, central alarm system integration, will give facility managers more control when ensuring the data centre’s physical security.

Trust is a vulnerability

It’s not enough to simply protect the computers and equipment from physical threats. Protecting data centres from online threats are equally as important. Implementing  cybersecurity software and architecture is crucial to preventing data breaches. IT managers need to make sure that they ring fence the data. Having a company-wide Zero Trust policy is said to be one of the only ways to reduce data breaches. This model recognises that trust is a vulnerability, therefore the architecture of the IT system should be set up in a way that access to certain data is only granted on an individual basis.

By creating software-enabled security perimeters around data means that employees can’t have access to all of the company’s online assets. Firewalls and virus scanners are also necessary elements of a secure IT infrastructure that every IT manager should put in place across all devices that have access to the company server. Regularly monitoring how these are performing and checking if there are any holes in the online security perimeter is essential to ensure that the company isn’t left vulnerable to data breaches or that any data is compromised.

Keeping the lights on

Power supply and power consumption are among the key issues in data centre operations. First and foremost, the power supply for IT and facilities must be guaranteed at all times. Power failures lead to massive outages, SLAs (Service Level Agreements) are violated, enormous costs are incurred. To compensate for power outages, data centres usually have two emergency systems:

UPS devices

  • The Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is usually provided by battery-powered devices that can bridge short local power failures or compensate for local voltage fluctuations. In case of failure of the general power supply, UPS devices bridge the start-up time of the generator of an AEV system. With UPS devices, it is important to monitor the battery charge and/or the possible bridging time.

SPS

  • Standby Power Systems (SPS), also known as Emergency Power Systems, often consist of generators. They take over the power supply in the event of normal power loss. Depending on the technology used, tank levels have to be monitored, but the operating temperature can also play a role if the generator is constantly kept at a certain temperature in order to be ready for operation more quickly in case of an emergency.

Powering the data centre is fundamental and keeping the lights on requires constant attention. Managers can rest assured with the help of a single monitoring tool that can monitor all relevant parameters of UPS devices and SPS, via SNMP, Modbus TCP, OPC UA or via API, depending on the device in use, thus ensuring the power supply even in case of malfunctions or failures. 

Managing the full view of the data centre can sometimes cause those in charge to feel overwhelmed, especially when data is sprawled across teams and reported back in various ways. To overcome this issue, businesses should consider investing in a monitoring tool that can not only ensure the data centre is running, but is also protected from any online attacks. With all the key information coming into a central IT system, IT and facility managers can focus on the wider business priorities and be assured that they have the full view of the data centre with the click of a button.

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